By Gevorg Stamboltsian
The owner and director of a funicular in Yerevan went on trial on Thursday, accused of “criminal self-confidence” which prosecutors say led to a cable car crash that killed five people last April.
Grigor Janian is the only person prosecuted in connection with the most deadly accident in the history of the cable railway. The charges leveled against him carry between four and ten years in prison.
One of its cable cars came off the rail track and fell from a 15-meter altitude in the Nork district lying on a steep hillside overlooking the city center. Officials suggested at the time that the cabin carrying eleven people may have been derailed by a sudden snap of the steel rope that pulled it up the slope. Two of those killed were Iranian citizens, while another victim was an ethnic Armenian from Georgia.
Artur Yeritsian, a prosecutor who read out the indictment in the courtroom, said Janian failed to repair the facility’s aging mechanical equipment during a replacement of its cables in February 2003. Funicular employees questioned as witnesses confirmed that the Soviet-era equipment was worn-out.
Janian, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to the charges, contradicting comments which he made to reporters just minutes before the start of the trial. “Neither I nor my employees are guilty. It was an accident,” he said.
Also questioned were survivors of the crash and relatives of the dead, including family members of one of the Iranian victims. The latter demanded a tough punishment for the cable car owner.
The family of an Armenian man killed in the crash, Arkady Nasroyan, demanded $6,000 in compensatory damages and said it will file a separate civil lawsuit against the company. One of the survivors is seeking a similar sum to make up for money which he has spent on his treatment in hospital.